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Family Promise fights homelessness with help from community

Non-profit works to keep children from being without a home, and has significant success rates.
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Two young guests play on a computer donated by IBM

Two young guests play on a computer donated by IBM /Family Promise

Imagine you are a child and your mother just told you that your family is moving. Your dad left about a month ago and you're not sure where you and your mom and your little brother are going to stay. All your life you have had a safe, dependable place to play with all your toys and call home, but now everything has changed.

Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population and child poverty is up 64% since 2000. Family Promise, a nonprofit organization in Grand Rapids, is teaming up with partners in the community to make sure that all children in Grand Rapids have a safe and healthy place to call home. 

Going to the Family Promise day center on Division and meeting the families served there may change a visitor's entire perspective on homeless people. It isn't the person sleeping under the bridge with addiction and mental health issues we might think of when we hear the word "homelessness." It can be families just like yours or mine, in which the parents have lost their job, had an illness, experienced a family break-up or domestice violence. They are people who just don't have the resources and community connections to fall back, and that's where Family Promise steps in.

With over 1,600 volunteers each year and over 50 partners, both congregations and businesses alike, Family Promise is a story of community collaboration. Executive director Cheryl Schuch said, "Having a strong community network is important for the success and future of all families. There is no reason that a child should have to suffer through homelessness because of this recession, and that is why Family Promise and our many volunteers and partners work so hard to make sure children have a safe place to rest their heads."

Most of the families have never been homeless before coming to Family Promise. In an average of 26 days, 93% of families served by Family Promise found a new home. Over 91% of those families were still housed a year later. The organization credits these outstanding results to their incredible volunteers that go beyond just giving them a safe place filled with compassion and hope. 

Mary Ann March, program coordinator at East Congregational Church said, “I feel blessed to be a part of the program. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know people and have come to realize that we have more in common than not. When you know people, eat with them and hug them when they leave, it makes real the problems people face. Issues such as job loss, poverty and homelessness become very personal.”


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